For every Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl, there is the seldom heard success story of an unwanted or at least undrafted player who makes it to the NHL. While the trio of Oilers were destined to be in the League and important parts of their team that was never the case for Mark Letestu or it wasn't until he made a case for himself.
A self-made professional hockey player whose path to the pros wasn't paved with a lottery pick or even a draft pick. No, for the Elk Point, AB native it was slow and steady steps to success which led him to a milestone moment of his career on Wednesday night.
Edmonton played Detroit. It was the 22nd game of the season for the Oilers and the 320th game of the NHL season. For Mark Letestu it was game 500. Half a thousand times he had done the same thing for three different teams. 85 games for Pittsburgh, 233 for Columbus and 182 games for Edmonton. What started November 14, 2009 with a Penguins 6-5 win against the Boston Bruins continued to Nov. 22, 2017. An Edmonton 6-2 win versus Detroit and a goal for Mark Letestu.
"It has all just gone by so fast," said Letestu after the victory against the Red Wings. "And I hope there are many more games to come."
Video: EDM@DET: Letestu crashes net to roof rebound in 2nd
There will be another one Friday versus Buffalo but this is a story about the past and not the future of the Edmonton centreman. A player who played the game because he loved it and not because he would get paid for it. That really wasn't his intention or expectation.
"I never got drafted in the WHL," explained Letestu. "Or the NHL but it (my career) just kind of happened along the way."
That's because Letestu made it happen. From Elk Point to Edmonton, he made a lot of stops which generated his rise to the NHL. It was a climb from junior to college to the minors and eventually the NHL.
In Bonnyville of the AJHL, Letestu absolutely killed it his final season. 50 goals and 55 assists in only 58 games and league scoring champion. Numbers that could not go unnoticed and didn't. Western Michigan, a school located in Kalamazoo, wanted him and he went. A full ride scholarship to play college hockey and his tuition covered. The best of both worlds. He enrolled in business and that's what he was on the ice: all business. A 4.0 grade point average and a 46 point season.
"That's when things started to change," said the Oiler centreman. "My phone started ringing and three teams showed interest."
One (Pittsburgh) signed him on March 22, 2007.
A little over ten years later and Mark Letestu finds himself back home or as close to Elk Point as you can be while playing in the NHL.
His wife, mother and three kids surprised him in St. Louis for game 499 on Tuesday. One game early but with back to backs it was a chance to see him and spend some time together before he departed for Detroit. While working his way through the season on the ice, there is still work to be done in the classroom or at least on line.
Letestu is about a year and a half away from a degree in accounting. Yet, it's the Oilers who are accounting on him to continue being, as Todd McLellan called him, the team's Swiss Army Knife. It's not only a lesson in sport but a life lesson provided by the Oiler when he explains what's happened to him and for him.
"Hockey opened up doors for me and I just kept walking through."
Right through to a Re-Mark-able career.